I have joined eight of my parliamentary colleagues who represent rural constituencies where superfast (30 Mbps) broadband coverage is below 85 per cent to urge the Digital Minister, Matt Hancock, to provide government funding for fixed wireless broadband in the hard-to-reach areas (see map).
Wireless is a proven technology, which is much more readily deliverable and can achieve ultrafast speeds without any data restrictions at competitive rates. Some areas, such as Thirsk and Malton and Penrith and the Borders have already seen successful commercial and community-led delivery by third party providers. One example is Ryedale District Council who have helped fund third party provider, Moorsweb, to provide fixed wireless to the village of Rosedale since 2012.
We have sent the Minister a report, Solutions for the fifteen per cent, which draws on real examples from North Yorkshire and Cumbria and we are urging him to consider government support to roll fixed wireless broadband out more widely. The report makes the following recommendations; Openreach should develop a fixed wireless strategy for rural areas; Openreach could work with third party suppliers to deliver holistic solutions; DCMS should consider providing national funds for fixed wireless as an alternative to fibre; the Gigabit Voucher Scheme should also be applied to fixed wireless solutions. As well as in Yorkshire, some examples of wireless schemes in Cheshire are working to provide decent broadband to communities.
Although the BDUK Superfast Broadband Programme has made great progress, it is estimated that coverage in some of the areas we represent will continue to lag behind the average. This means that communities in the hardest-to-reach areas will not be connected to superfast broadband in the foreseeable future, so we are appealing to the Government to consider this alternative solution.
Of course we welcome the Government’s extension of the 2020 national coverage target to 98 per cent, the push for future-proofed full-fibre investment and the proposed 10 Mbps broadband USO. However, two years is too long to wait for many businesses and homes who already suffer from poor broadband connections; even then, the solutions provided will offer service limitations, for example, sub-superfast speeds, latency issues with satellite and data caps for 4G services. Superfast availability remains unobtainable in over fifteen per cent of premises in Thirsk and Malton. Almost one in twenty premises still receive less than 2 Mbps and almost a third of residents receive under 10 Mbps.
The report shows that fixed wireless can often be the most cost-effective delivery method when funding is insufficient for universal fibre-based rollout. We suggest that it is a requirement for those in receipt of public funds to deliver broadband in remote areas, usually Openreach, by using this technology, where it is proven to be appropriate and cost-effective. I will continue to work with the Digital Secretary, local authorities and third party providers to ensure that everyone whether a business or household, in Thirsk and Malton superfast broadband is made accessible to all.
The full report and the letter to the Minister are available for you to read below:
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